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Effects of Syntactic Expectations on Speech Segmentation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laurence WhiteORCiD


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Although the effect of acoustic cues on speech segmentation has been extensively investigated, the role of higher order information (e.g., syntax) has received less attention. Here, the authors examined whether syntactic expectations based on subject-verb agreement have an effect on segmentation and whether they do so despite conflicting acoustic cues. Although participants detected target words faster in phrases containing adequate acoustic cues ("spins" in take spins and "pins" in takes pins), this acoustic effect was suppressed when the phrases were appended to a plural context (those women take spins/*takes pins [with the asterisk indicating a syntactically unacceptable parse]). The syntactically congruent target ("spins") was detected faster regardless of the acoustics. However, a singular context (that woman *take spins/takes pins) had no effect on segmentation, and the results resembled those of the neutral phrases. Subsequent experiments showed that the discrepancy was due to the relative time course of syntactic expectations and acoustics cues. Taken together, the data suggest that syntactic knowledge can facilitate segmentation but that its effect is substantially attenuated if conflicting acoustic cues are encountered before full realization of the syntactic constraint. © 2007 American Psychological Association.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mattys SL, Melhorn JF, White L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance

Year: 2007

Volume: 33

Issue: 4

Pages: 960-977

Print publication date: 01/08/2007

ISSN (print): 0096-1523

ISSN (electronic): 1939-1277

Publisher: American Psychological Association


DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.33.4.960

PubMed id: 17683240


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